Can paying an undesirable customer not to use your products save you from brand damage- or does it because more harm than good?

Concerned that its brand image was going to be tainted by the stars of popular reality TV show Jersey Shore (nope I’ve never heard of it either) US clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch have taken the bold step of offering to pay the cast NOT to wear its clothes.

The ‘beautiful peoples’ brand has specifically singled out hard-partying cast member Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino (so called because wherever he goes he gets into ‘situations’). The Situation has a tendency of lifting up his shirt to reveal his abdominal muscles, often flashing the logo on the waistband of his underwear, prompting the firm to offer him compensation to stop wearing A&F products.

Mike 'The Situation' SorrentinoIn a statement released by A&F themselves, a spokesperson commented that the company was  ‘deeply concerned’ that Mr Sorrentino’s association with their brand could cause significant damage to their image.

The idea behind the Abercrombie & Fitch brand is perhaps best described as ‘preppy’ – one that doesn’t exactly match with the day-to-day exploits of the loud, brash and hedonistic cast of Jersey Shore.

But will this brave move save the reputation of A&F in the eyes of their most loyal customers?  Or will it, ahem, make ‘the situation’ even worse?

It’s certainly generated a lot of publicity and brought into question the whole notion of what makes for a good endorsement.

You may also think fans of Jersey Shore are unlikely to shop at Abercrombie and Fitch as they’re not exactly the same target audience, so why would they care if one of the cast members wore their clothes?  Could it be they actually don’t want fans of Jersey Shore to buy their clothes? Is there a bit of brand snobbiness going on?

It wouldn’t be the first time A & F have been criticised for this. Over the years the brand has been quite open about the kind of people they want to be associated with – Caucasian, sporty-looking, blonde-hair, blue-eyed males and females essentially. So much so, it’s caused them a hell of a lot trouble having already been taken to court, accused of racial discrimination in their hiring.

Yet A&F isn’t the first brand to attract unwanted fans. Remember a couple of years ago when Burberry infamously became the uniform of choice for the discerning Chav? At the time anyone caught dead in one of their signature caps immediately went down the fashion ladder.

Luckily for Burberry they managed to come back from this set back with a lot of hard work and the endorsement of well –known names such as “fashionista” Kate Moss and “classy” starlet Emma Watson.

Some experts are hailing A&F’s move as a “brave and brilliant PR move” raising an important debate about reputation being central to brand success. However, others argue the company now looks like a bully (especially towards “the Situation”) and should prepare for the backlash they may receive from the public. The Situation has already flexed his Twitter muscles, addressing his outrage and anger.

All this talk of paying someone to stop doing something brought up quite a discussion here at Team Beno HQ so we decided to each pick which person/brand/company we would actually pay to JUST STOP!

Here are our picks!

To avoid another office shootout we specifically banned Pat and Aislin from picking each other…

Aislin says: “I hate any adverts selling windows and doors, why don’t you just BOGOF!”

TB says: “We Buy Any Car & Go Compare…STOP SINGING AT ME!”

DJ says: “Brand Jordan aka Katie Price – I’m sure you’ve struggled against adversity dearie, but what exactly is your purpose?”

Pato says: Halifax Radio show advert “‘Ice, ice baby’ is not a good song to use to sell ISAs… or anything else for that matter.”